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'Farm Kids' tells it like it was

Raised on a dairy farm just outside Roberts in the 1950s, Dianne and Connie Johnson were taught the right way to hang the wash, the value of "polio naps" and how to ride bareback.

But more importantly they learned skills that would serve them well wherever life took them: The ability to enjoy solitude, thriftiness, independence and the importance of friends and a loving family.

The sisters -- one now lives in Prescott Valley, Ariz., and the other in Camarillo, Calif. -- have compiled their stories of farm life and attending schools in Roberts, Hammond and Hudson into a 16-chapter book that includes family photos and a genealogy of their Norwegian ancestors.

They published the 360-page soft-cover volume -- titled "Farm Kids" -- themselves and are selling copies for $20 apiece.

Dianne Johnson (Although they're both married, the sisters use their maiden name professionally.) was born in 1944 at Mrs. Wilmeth's house in River Falls. Connie was born in River Falls in June 1947 with Dr. Anderson attending.

Dianne graduated from St. Croix Central High School and enrolled at River Falls State College, but left her sophomore year to get married. She worked for three years as a secretary at 3M and then quit to stay home with her two sons. She and her husband were "transferred across the country several times."

She worked as a Mary Kay consultant, lifestyles editor for the Weatherford (Okla.) Daily News, parish assistant at a Lutheran church in California, office manager for two interior designers and a public relations director/administrative assistant in Ventura County, Calif.

In 1994 Dianne and her husband were transferred back to St. Paul. With her children grown, she re-enrolled at UW-River Falls and graduated with a double major in English and journalism in 1998, 36 years after she first enrolled.

Connie, a Hudson High School graduate, attended UW-Eau Claire. After graduating, she taught junior and senior high art classes for 10 years at Eleva-Strum Central Schools. She left teaching in 1980 to try business ventures and has worked as a collection manager in Chicago, inn night manager in Galena, Ill., sales representative for both a newspaper and a radio station and program manager for a human service agency in Dubuque, Iowa.

Dianne and her husband are retired and living in California where she volunteers at a library bookstore. Connie and her husband retired to Arizona.

Dianne's memories of farm life include running barefoot through the cow pasture, picking wild plum blossoms in Mert Timmerman's woods and making mud pies under the box elder tree on hot summer afternoons.

"It was a time filled with fun, hard work and a sense of community, not isolation as our geographical location would indicate," said Dianne. "I also basked in the serenity and freedom ... of living on a farm. To this day I love the blessings of solitude -- just me, a good book and my thoughts running free."

"I was the nature child who could identify all the wildflowers, butterflies and insects of the area," said Connie. "I strolled the pastures with my dog every season, never really doing any household chores. The farm was my classroom. Later I majored in biology."

In "Farm Kids," the sisters tell their individual remembrances in chapters about their experiences with 4-H, gardening, first jobs, church pew partners, favorite toys, visits with Cousin Linda, surviving winter, the family's first television, casual and beloved pets, and family secrets.

"The farm taught me a love of nature and of silence, an ability to enjoy solitude, the strength of family wrapped in the confidence to be an independent spirit," said Connie. "I draw every day from these farm lessons and every day the farm tugs my soul back to Wisconsin."

"Life on the farm taught me most of life's greatest lessons," said Diane. "Among them: Possessions have no power to impart either self-esteem or happiness. Only good friends can do that."

"It took me awhile, but I finally got it."

To order "Farm Kids" or for more information, contact the Johnsons at